The Business Magazine’s annual awards dinner for Southern Tech 100 companies highlighted the region’s strength and depth in the tech sector.
More than 50 guests attended the dinner and networking evening at Oakley Hall, Basingstoke, on 7 March, to celebrate top performers in the Southern Tech 100. The annual tech company listing is compiled by The Business Magazine.
The evening’s host, Nick Morse from The Business Magazine, said: “Tech is key in the south. And that’s why we and our sponsors like to recognise some of the successful businesses that have grown up around here and which contribute so much to our economy.”
Guest speaker Kevin Dady, CEO of IRIS Software Group, revealed the three main performance areas he relentlessly pursues to achieve constant growth for the UK’s largest privately-owned software company. “First, where next? Second, ensuring our people flourish. Third, only worrying about tomorrow – you can’t change yesterday.”
He explained how the business had grown to the point where IRIS products are used to submit over three million tax returns to HMRC – nearly one-third of all UK returns.
More than one million online statutory documents are sent to Companies House using its software and over 2.3m employees rely on IRIS for their paychecks. Recent areas of business expansion include running back-office systems for 11,000 education organisations.
Dady described his desire to continually “change the paradigm” giving the example of IRIS’ introduction of cashless payments for school lunches. “This reduces schools’ administration costs, reduces incidents of bullying to obtain money from pupils, and provides data for parents about what their children are buying to encourage healthier eating,” he said.
IRIS has a workforce of 1,100 at around 16 locations and has grown in every one of its 40 years. Rapid expansion has seen the company acquire 13 businesses in the last three to five years. Looking to the future, Dady said: “The challenge for us is to maintain our values as we grow.”
And the winners are…
Emerging Technology Company of the Year – sponsored by Barclays
“Utilising their patented technology, their wearable products are a technology platform that reacts and interacts with the human body to convert heat into energy and information. Last November, the company released an early prototype of a cardiac monitoring t-shirt, using Bluetooth technology embedded in the garments.”
“It’s a real honour to win, especially against such fierce competition. I’m a biochemist and developed infrared-emitting textiles. When I founded Kymira I got bogged down on the operational side and my way forward was to start innovating again. In the next two years we hope to be at a point where our products and technologies can interact with people through their whole lifecycle.” Tim Brownstone, founder and CEO
Finalists: CitNOW, Cloud Factory, Open Cosmos
Innovative Tech Company of the Year – sponsored by BDO
“This company’s transformation from a digital marketing agency to a global leader in AI is truly remarkable. We were highly impressed with its innovative projects and by its work with the Ask generation and Microsoft.”
“I was quite surprised to win against some great businesses. Like any company, our success is down to our people. And we’ve some great clients who are willing to take a punt with us. That’s massively important. A lot of what we are able to achieve is having clients who want to co-develop technologies with us. We can show all our innovation is available in the market, generating revenue.” Chris Sykes, CEO and head of AI and Robotics
Finalists: Fordway, Microlink, Ultima Business Solutions, Xtrac
Best Use of Technology – sponsored by Roc Search
Winner: Redwood Technologies
“It was clear to see how passionate they were about the products they were developing. Their early adoption of AI and machine learning, amongst other things, was key to winning this award. The focus on using the most up-to-date and cutting-edge technology was clear to see for use both internally and externally for their customers.”
“This is totally unexpected; we were delighted just to be shortlisted. Technology has always been central to us. It’s at the heart of everything we do – three-quarters of our staff are engineers. It has never been a better time to be in technology because now not only is it cool at last, but technology has emerged as the fundamental force shaping the world.” Martin Taylor, director and co-founder
Finalists: ActiveOps, Centerprise International
Employer of the Year – sponsored by Shoosmiths
Winner: The NAV People
“Our winner has maintained a family-type culture despite significant growth in employee numbers. Initiatives make remote-working employees feel part of the organisation. Weekly shared lunches for employees help to maintain morale. The informal and fun character of the workplace was evident and excellent levels of staff satisfaction and retention demonstrate the success of the approach.”
“Absolutely delighted. It’s hard to find people to grow the business so employee loyalty is important. We work with local academies, encourage girls in technology, and recruit from overseas. The more staff are engaged with our values and goals the more they understand where we are trying to go. Technology is a serious business so we also need to get the balance right by making it fun as well.” David Walker, operations director
Finalists: ByBox, Peach Technologies, Xtrac
Business Leader of the Year – sponsored by BDO
Winners: Jason Kingsley and Chris Kingsley, co-founders of Rebellion
“These passionate and dedicated leaders are always looking to evolve and explore new ventures, such as a film studio in Didcot. There is a strong relationship with the staff, with fantastic use of an open door policy, and with the local community where they continue to inspire future generations. It was evidently clear that the business was not viewed as work but as a family.”
“We’re very pleased. Sometimes as a business leader you have your nose to the grindstone so it’s nice to look up and see you are appreciated. As well as games, we publish books and comics that encourage literacy, especially among boys. We set up one of our film and TV studios in Didcot because we wanted it close to our base in Oxford. There are currently three big film projects underway at Didcot, which is a boost to the local economy.” Jason Kingsley, co-founder and CEO of Rebellion
Finalists: Arun Bala – CEO of Invenio Business Solutions; Heddwyn Davies – CEO of Symetrica; Simon Hansford – co-founder and CEO of UKCloud; Rafi Razzak – founder and owner of Centerprise International